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THE CHURCH OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST
Nothing is more shocking in the study of the New Testament than the way in which authorities represent the message of the Corinthian letters. Typical college texts surveying the contents of these epistles seem to deliberately avoid their true purpose and overall theme — to establish general guidelines for church policy and practice. Instead, Bible scholars often cite the primary emphasis for I Corinthians as — providing solutions for deviant church beliefs and practices; and less frequently, the social application of Christ’s crucifixion, or a call to personal holiness. And, they uphold the central focus of II Corinthians as — the personal expression of the apostle Paul’s feelings; or his setting forth autobiographical information; or the nature of his ministry in relation to the churches he founded.
However, in dealing with the problems of the first century Corinthian church, which actually are typical even to this day, the apostle Paul relies on general principles for church conduct and practice. He addresses how unity can be maintained among Christians, by focusing on the crucifixion of Christ, and by avoiding the party spirit that arises from following the special teachings of individual church leaders. He describes how ministers in the church should function, be held accountable, and defend themselves when necessary, and how they should be regarded by the members. He reviews the ministerial gifts of Holy Spirit available for all believers for the edification of the church. He outlines what relationship believers should have with people outside of the body of Christ, as well as what belonging to the church means in regard to sin, how members should treat each other, and how they should view other religions. He notes the members’ obligations in making donations, financially supporting the minister, and making certain that church money is handled responsibly. He specifies how a whole church meeting should be carried out, the role of women in the church, and the proper practice for the Lord’s Supper. He indicates how members should be censured and how disputes between them should be settled. And, he sets out exactly what members must believe concerning the person of Jesus Christ.
However, when considering how the overwhelming weight of the content of these epistles compares to the traditional policy and practices of the institutional church, it is very understandable how church authorities are blind to the real messages being set out. The church principles established by I & II Corinthians are simply too different from what the leaders want for their organizations. For example, emphasizing donations as a strictly spiritual experience, or having services depend on the ministry of all believers, taking a focus away from a central leading figure and his special teachings, are not what the traditional clergy find significant for a relevant Christian community and experience.
Guidelines are set forth below for church life that derive from the Corinthian correspondence. In comparing each principle set out to the actual passages designated, it should become obvious that the problems of the Corinthian church served as an occasion to have the apostle Paul establish general policy and practice for the entire Christian community. In reviewing the universal significance of these principles, no basis can be found to assert, that they only apply to special groups of abnormal believers. (See — What Is the Non-Institutional Church?)
Having a union with Jesus Christ makes church members holy and causes them to be in unity and fellowship with all believers anywhere.
Christ himself enriches church members in all knowledge and utterance, so that all of his followers come to a fullness in spiritual gifts.
Depending on wisdom and logic creates party spirit, contention, and disunity, by emphasizing individual church leaders. Focusing on the crucifixion of Christ causes believers to have the same mind, judgment, and utterance, accomplishing unity and harmony among believers.
Therefore, proclaim the gospel as the apostle Paul did by focusing on the message of the cross, Christ crucified, which is the power of God in bringing people to salvation. Philosophers and logicians call this message nonsense. Actually, the wisdom of the world is the nonsense, which does not bring people to know God, and which will be revealed for what it is.
However, the humble preach the gospel, shaming those considered wise in the world. As Christ is wisdom from God, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, we can only glory in him — not wisdom.
Therefore in proclaiming the gospel, set aside excellence of speech and wisdom, but merely declare the testimony of God, Christ crucified. Let preaching be a demonstration of the power of God, not utilizing persuasive words, or based on human wisdom.
There is a wisdom from God freely given to believers through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are not based on human wisdom and require spiritual maturity. However, the natural man/woman views them as foolish and cannot know them, as they are spiritually discerned. The carnal believer does not have the maturity to receive instruction on the gifts of the Spirit. This immaturity is indicated by envy, strife, division, party spirit, and behaving like a worldly person.
(As 1:1–2:5 reviews what Paul did preach at Corinth, Christ crucified, this next passage refers to what he did not teach on — or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, 3:12 — with a defense for not previously reviewing doctrine for the mature. In ancient Greek society, a philosopher taught general and esoteric doctrine, and neglecting the latter would bring a charge of not being a faithful steward of the mysteries of God, cf. 4:1–3. See — Charles H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians: A Liturgical and Theological Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians — New York: Crossroad, 1987, pp. 5–7).
The leaders in the church are mere servants of God. They can plant or water, but God makes the believer grow. One leader can lay a foundation, another can build on it, but care must be used to ensure the building is based on Christ, or there will be judgment. 3:10b–17
One day everyone’s work in Christ will be tested by fire to reveal its true nature, to receive a reward or to suffer its loss. However, in losing the reward, salvation will still remain, but only as one going through fire. And, as believers themselves are the temple of God, anyone who defiles it will be destroyed.
There are no wise leaders — For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Therefore, irrespective of church leaders, all believers are united by being in Christ. Church leaders are servants and stewards of the revealed truth of God. It is required that they be found trustworthy, but the leader should only be concerned with God’s judgment, not that of the congregation or of a human court. Congregations should not form premature judgments of leaders but wait on the Lord. (All citations KJV unless indicated)
Avoid immorality, a lifestyle involving a commitment to sin, such as sexual transgression, greed, idolatry, abusive speech, drunkenness, extortion (cf. 6:9–11). Believers who commit to such a sinful life style should be removed from church membership. (Verse 5, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh… = excommunication. Verse 11, not to keep company, or me sunavamignusthai = not to mix up together, mingle, or associate with). Otherwise, these believers will have a sinful influence over the entire body. However, Christians should only judge those inside the church. God judges those outside the church.
Do not settle a dispute with another church member in a secular court of law or before unbelievers. Select a Christian believer(s) to act as judge to settle the disagreement. However, having to resort to a legal proceeding is already a mark of moral failure, and it is better merely to accept the wrong committed against oneself.
Be holy, as one who is joined to Christ and whose body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Avoid a sinful life style, especially sexual immorality and having relations with a harlot, as sex serves as a bonding experience between two people.
Dedicating oneself to the service of God without a marital partner is a special spiritual gift. To avoid sexual immorality, believers should marry and engage in physical affection.
Believers are not to divorce. If the spouse is a nonbeliever but willing to remain married, there should be no divorce. In that way the spouse eventually may be saved. And, the spouse and children are then closer to God. However if the unbelieving spouse departs, the Christian is under no bondage to the marriage but has a right to peace.
On accepting Christ, believers should continue in their current state of life.
In times of distress or calamity, it is well not to marry, but there is no sin in doing so. However, in general the unmarried exercise undivided devotion to God, while the married are distracted in their service to God by the things of the world that are pleasing to their spouse. On the death of a spouse, a believer can marry another Christian.
(This passage refers to eating food sacrificed to demons).
Do not let your example of living based on advanced knowledge of spiritual matters contribute to another believer sinning. Advanced knowledge only leads to pride and is never fully comprehensive, while forbearance for the sake of another person is an expression of love. Respect legal observances when necessary to prevent another believer from stumbling in the faith. Cf. 10:14–22 And 10:23–11:1.
A minister’s call is confirmed by personal experience with Jesus Christ and by the followers.
Ministers have a right to financial support from the congregation, and they have a right to marry.
The minister can refuse the right to compensation. Preaching the Gospel is a commission (oikonomian) from Christ, not a personal choice that can be avoided without consequences. However, when done willingly, it is a reward in itself, and offering the Gospel free of charge actually is something over which the minister can boast.
By offering the gospel for free, and in so doing becoming a servant to others, more people are won to Christ. In the same way, we should conform to the circumstances of other people in order to bring some of them to salvation — being like a Jew among Jews; like a Gentile among Gentiles; like the weak among the weak. Those who win people to Christ with training and discipline will have an eternal reward. Therefore, we should exercise self-control and stringent discipline in proclaiming the gospel, or we may be found disqualified.
Although the Jews coming out of Egypt were baptized into the Mosaic community and knew the Spirit of Christ, their membership alone as part of the people of God did not prevent their being destroyed for sexual immorality, lusting after evil, committing idolatry, and complaining against God. They serve as an example for believers in the end of time. Believers have the ability to resist the temptation to sin; God always provides a way of escape, a means to endure, and he will not permit us to be overtaken by more than we are able to withstand.
Believers cannot have more than one God, more than one religion, which is consorting with demons.
Do everything to the glory of God, placing the well-being of others before oneself, and avoiding offense to the Jews, the Greeks, and the church of God. Watch how your example affects others, and do not seek self-advantage, but try to please all people in all things that many will be saved. Imitate the way of the apostle Paul and Christ in dealing with others.
(According to the cultural norms in the first century, a woman wore her hair bound as a sign she was not available but belonged to her husband. Available women and prostitutes their hair loose. A woman’s head was shaved, if she was found guilty of adultery. See — Julia Staton, What the Bible Says about Women — College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, 1980, p. 127).
As God is the head of Christ, so the husband is the head of the wife. As the husband acknowledges Christ as the head, so the wife should acknowledge the authority of her husband in Christian meetings. Noting this sexual distinction arises from creation, is recognized by the angels in heaven, and is affirmed by natural witness. (It is not culturally relative). There is no basis for contention on this distinction in the church. However, men and women should be considered equals; note verses 11,12.
(Note verse 18:…when you come together as a church…, NKJV, NIV, literally; when you come together in assembly; cf. 14:23, if the whole church comes together, NKJV, NIV).
The Lord’s Supper is a special occasion for whole church gatherings — not weekly cell-unit meetings. (See What Is The Non-Institutional Church — for a review of the biblical representation of church structure).
However, these verses indicate the Corinthians were treating the Lord’s Supper unworthily, using it as a common meal and an occasion to create factions according to secular custom.
(Sacred meals from pagan antiquity would often have a statement of occasion that would be announced publicly or proclaimed. By Roman custom, different types of food were served to different categories of guests. Slaves would arrive late and find room only at the atrium. See – Charles H. Talbert, Readinging Corinthians, pp. 73–80).
Paul upholds Christ’s example of the Lord’s Supper, which actually follows the Jewish tradition of Passover, being a ritualized meal, known as a seder, cf. Matthew to 6:26–30.
Practicing the Lord’s supper unworthily, as a common dinner, (according to verses 17–22, even creating factions, and leaving some hungry while others were drunk), brings judgment on oneself, and leads to weakness and sickness. To properly observe the Supper, practice it as a ritual dinner, observing all the believers present and waiting for them for a ceremony in unison.
All believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, some gift of ministry as he chooses for each member, for the common good of the body of Christ, such as prophecy, a word of wisdom or knowledge, working of miracles, spiritual discernment. These manifestations of the Spirit cause the church to function as a dynamic organism, and every person with his/ her gift is indispensable and with honor.
Further, God has placed some people in the church to fulfill an office, such as apostle, teacher, healer, etc., but gifts must be cultivated.
Loving others is a more excellent way of living than exercising spiritual gifts — speaking in tongues, or prophesying, giving unto others, etc. Love is patient with others, putting them first in all matters, rather than being self-seeking or puffed up in pride over having spiritual gifts. Thus, put love first in trying to cultivate spiritual gifts, and also faith and hope, as a mark of maturity.
Desire spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. Especially cultivate the gift of prophecy, which is superior to tongues in a church meeting, unless the latter has an interpretation. A prophetic revelation should be a benefit to others through knowledge and teaching. Spiritual gifts should focus on up building the church. Therefore, whoever prays in tongues should also pray for the power to interpret. However, tongues alone, without interpretation, although only profiting the speaker, still is a real blessing, whether in prayer or singing.
Note verse 3, prophetic messages are for guidance and encouragement in the personal lives of believers - edification, exhortation, comfort.
(Thus, these messages should not be placed on the same level as Scripture, which sets forth God’s overall plan for history and moral guidelines for all humanity, with the prophet’s authority confirmed by his ability to predict the future and to perform miracles, cf. Deuteronomy 13:1–3; 18:18–22).
Tongues alone spoken in public are only for those who will not believe, fulfilling prophecy from the Old Testament. However, tongues spoken in a whole church assembly without interpretation will cause the unlearned and unbelievers to assume the members are crazy. But, when there is a message in tongues that manifests the secrets of the heart of unbelievers, then they believe.
A whole church assembly should be based on members having a song of praise, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation; all for the purpose of edifying. No more than two or three should speak in tongues and always with someone interpreting. If no one with the gift of interpretation is present, tongues should not be spoken.
Two or three members with the gift of prophecy should speak; the first making concession to the next one ready with a revelation; all done in order and without confusion. The assembly should assess carefully what is said.
A woman should not address the whole church assembly in an official capacity, as not to usurp the authority of husbands. The woman’s position is not a matter of debate in the church.
Be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues, but all things should be done in a dignified way (euschemonos) and according to order.
A correct belief in Christ is foundational to being a part of the people of God, verses 1,2,13–17. A member of the church must believe that Christ is the son of God, who died for our sins, and who was raised back to life, that all who hope on him may be resurrected from death into his eternal kingdom. Therefore, believers must strive to overcome sin and to live in righteousness. And, these beliefs should motivate the people of the church to be steadfast in their work for Christ, fully confident of its merits.
At times the minister comes under great stress and tribulation, even to the point of despairing for life, that he will learn to be completely dependent on God, to trust him only for deliverance. Then, the mercy, comfort, and consolation of God abounds in his life. Consequently, the minister then is able to help the church members more effectively, who also know the same suffering and consolation. The members should pray for what the minister has to endure.
It is the minister’s moral obligation to behave and to confer a message in the holiness and sincerity of God, not being based in the wisdom of the flesh, but the grace of God, both in the world and even more abundantly towards church members. As a result of such conduct, both the minister and church members can be proud of each other.
At times a minister should defend himself to the church members against appearances, against their partial understanding of him.
A minister’s authority with a church is established by God’s anointing, in the same way that he calls a person to salvation. However, the minister has no dominion over their faith but functions as their fellow worker to bring them to joy in the faith.
The church members should also try to be a source of joy to the minister, not of sorrow.
When the church members censure one of their own at the direction of the minister, it causes him great pain and suffering; nevertheless, he must call for it, in order to lead the offender to repentance. Actually, the offender causes the entire membership to grieve. However, the punishment should not be too severe, and the members should be ready to reaffirm their love and to forgive the offender, or Satan will gain an advantage over them.
Opportunities to proclaim the gospel are created by God; and therefore, success in the work occurs through the power of Christ. However, the messenger should not be a peddler of the Word of God, but one speaking in sincerity.
Only God qualifies a minister by granting him the inner ability to transform the lives of believers into the image of Christ. The minister’s qualification is not based on the testimony of others, but the results within his followers in changing their hearts.
Because a new covenant ministry surpasses that of the Mosaic Law, the church leader can have great hope and speak in boldness, knowing that the Holy Spirit will cause the followers to be transformed into the image of Christ.
A minister should have great hope in commending himself to others by stating the truth about God without cunning or deceit — by appealing to people’s conscience before God. Ministers should not proclaim themselves, but Jesus Christ, and then themselves as servants to others in his name, who shines in their hearts as the testimony of his glory. Still, those whose minds are blinded by Satan will not believe.
The power of any person’s ministry is God’s, not his own. He must speak because he believes, even though he shall be pressed to the point of death, but God shall sustain him. He must do everything for the sake of the members and deny his worldly person to manifest the life of Christ in order to give them their lives.
By faith the minister knows another life with God awaits him, which gives him confidence. However, as all men will appear before God’s judgment seat, to receive their due for what was done in this earthly life, he strives to persuade others to Christ. This love of Christ to bring people to salvation is what compels the true minister to be a service to others. This ministry of reconciliation comes from God and causes the true minister to regard others as having the potential of becoming an entirely new person, a new creation. Therefore, through the work of God the minister implores others to come to Christ, as if God were pleading with them himself.
As the minister is a co-worker with God, the members should strive that God’s grace through him toward them will be effective.
The minister must try to avoid giving offense and cause for blame. The minister of God is commended by the distress he endures in his service, even including beatings, imprisonment, disturbances, labor, sleeplessness, fasting. He is commended by his purity, righteousness, knowledge, long-suffering, kindness, speaking in truth, sincere love, the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit; and at times by honor or dishonor, good or ill reports. The true minister is unknown, yet well-known, punished but not killed, dying yet alive, sorrowful but rejoicing, poor yet making others rich, having nothing yet everything. (What commends, serves as a sign of who is a minister).
The church should be separate from the world. Member should not consort with idolatry or be yoked with the unbelievers, which is immature. Believers must overcome their affections and cleanse themselves of ungodliness, living as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The minister and members should have a bond, wherein they live and die together. Although the minister can suffer great distress in pointing out errors on the part of the members, his success in leading them to godliness causes him great comfort and makes his efforts seem worthwhile. At times the minister must preach repentance, which seems difficult, but which accomplishes purity, diligence, zeal in their spiritual lives, and ensures their salvation. However, from this call for obedience to God, the members witness the minister’s care for them in truth under divine direction.
The church in Macedonia is held up as an example of giving, which donated money freely and generously out of their want and beyond their ability for the benefit of other Christians who were in need. The lack of other Christians should not be overlooked. As believers desire to abound in all spiritual matters, faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love, so they should also want to excel at giving to others.
The life of Jesus Christ is also an example to believers on giving to others, who became poor in order that others might become rich.
The administration of donated money should have respectable verification by other Christians.
Not to give money for the cause of the church is shameful.
As money is sown to the church, the sower will be prospered and reap the grace of God in all sufficiency and abundance. As God provides the seed for giving, so he causes it to multiply. And, as those in need receive the donation, so God is glorified, and so the giver has the prayers from those benefited.
The minister’s authority is established by the power of God causing his lines of reasoning and actions to be effective — demolishing opposing arguments and bringing members into obedience.
False authority is established by non-genuine leaders comparing themselves with each other. True leaders are recommended by God not by themselves. The true leaders remain within boundaries set by God for them and establish through God an original work, rather than merely sitting upon what others have accomplished.
False leaders teach another Jesus, another Spirit, another message than that of Scripture, which may sound appealing due to trained oratory and masquerading themselves as angels of light, ministers of doing right, when in reality they are dishonest and Satanically inspired in deceit. The true minister should not be valued by the pay he receives but by his knowledge of truth and his love for the believers.
(Note 13:3 — the Corinthians demand proof that Christ is speaking through Paul.
Note 12:11 — this situation arose due to their being influenced by false apostles).
At times the immaturity of believers creates a situation that requires that a minister defend himself in a manner following human nature, rather than spiritual humility. In doing so, he can refer to his credentials, the hardships and persecutions he endured in service, unique experiences with God, strength of character, spiritual reasons for weaknesses, supernatural works, and manner of remuneration. However the minister should be careful not to seem too boastful, or to create an appearance of actually being more than what he is. However, in reality this defense should only be done for building up the members and under the direction of God.
Any charges of sin against another believer must be established by substantial evidence. Then, the minister must deal with the situation by the power of God, which establishes his authority. Both the members and minister must continue examining themselves to ensure they all are continuing in the faith and to perfect their characters, which should include adhering to proper teaching, maintaining peace and harmony in the church, and sharing the Holy Spirit.
Corinthians Um-Compromised constitutes a chapter from Church Essentials: Relevant Issues for a Spiritual Community. Copyright 2004 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
Chapters include — Introduction | What Is The Non-Institutional Church? | What Is Love? | Seeking Christian Humility | The Image of Woman in Scripture | Corinthians Un-Compromised | A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS. | Charles Finney on Evangelism: Brief Synopses of REVIVAL FIRE and POWER FROM GOD.
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